Phoenix taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the Suns’ arena

By Boaz Witbeck 

The Phoenix City Council is considering whether to spend $150 million in taxpayer money on a plan to renovate the Phoenix Suns’ Talking Stick Resort arena.

At a recent public meeting, supporters of the plan argued that it’s worth $150 million to keep the team downtown.

Wanting to keep our beloved Suns in Phoenix is understandable, especially with the owner at one point threatening to move the team out of the city. But a taxpayer handout isn’t the way to do it. We would all do well to listen to Phoenix resident Greta Rogers, who told the City Council last December, “We [Phoenix residents] are not in the business of paying taxes to support private enterprise.”

Ms. Rogers is right. Government should not be picking and choosing winners in the private sector. In her words, “They can support themselves or fail on their own lack of diligence.” In that spirit, we urge the City Council to reject the plan when they vote Jan. 23.

Since 2006, politicians across North America have spent $11 billion in taxpayer funds on 54 ballparks, arenas, and stadiums.

Taxpayers forked over $430 million for the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center. They paid $305 million for the Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center. And they’re on the hook for $250 million for the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena. The list goes on.

Most of this spending – $9.3 billion worth – occurred without any taxpayer approval.  The people footing the bill had the opportunity to vote on funding for just 15 facilities. Only eight won voter approval.

Politicians like to claim that using taxpayer funds to build or renovate arenas will stimulate the local economy. The facts, however, say otherwise. 

One study unambiguously concluded, “there is no statistically significant positive correlation between sports facility construction and economic development.”

On the contrary, economics professors from the College of Holy Cross note that teams and stadiums propped up by taxpayer funding can actually choke off local economic activity. People spending money to go to games might have less money to spend at the local theater or might be deterred to go to eat out because of all the traffic from a sporting event.

Funding for stadiums can also crowd out expenditures for important public services and bust municipal budgets. Sometimes that money is wasted on arenas that sit empty. Houston’s Astrodome, which was built with $31 million in public funds and left the county millions of dollars in debt after being condemned for code violations. Despite all of this, last year Harris County approved another $105 million in taxpayer funds for renovations. The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis sits empty, leaving the taxpayers of Missouri paying $144 million in debt and upkeep costs until 2021 – in part because Los Angeles is subsidizing a new stadium for the NFL’s Rams, the team that left St. Louis.

In an ideal world, owners wouldn’t threaten to leave cities unless they get a taxpayer handout and politicians wouldn’t cave to their demands. Local officials need to always remember they’re supposed to look out for our interests.

Spending our hard-earned money on bad investments is not in our interest.

We Americans love our sports teams. But we shouldn’t allow politicians to use those attachments to benefit the well-connected at our expense.    

Boaz Witbeck is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity-Arizona

Americans For Prosperity Releases 2017 Legislative Scorecard

Are your state legislators Champions of the Taxpayer… or Champions of BIG Government?
 
 
The Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity has released its 2017 Legislative Scorecard. Go to www.azscorecard.com to see the results!  
 
AFP-Arizona’s scorecard assigns weights to over 300 bills according to their projected dollar impact to Arizona taxpayers, consumers and producers, with $1 million equaling one point on the scorecard.
 
This year’s legislative session was very positive. Here are some highlights:
 
SB 1522:  Balanced and Responsible Budget — The FY 2017-18 budget protects families and businesses from tax increases by growing state government spending more slowly than the rate of growth of the Arizona economy. The final FY 2018 budget figure was $9.817 billion. Even with $25 million in supplemental increases to the FY 2017 budget, the total was $55 million under a population-plus-inflation increase over last year’s budget.
 
SB 1431:  School Choice Expansion — By expanding eligibility for Arizona’s system of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), this reform will help more Arizona schoolchildren obtain the educational resources they need to succeed. Please use THIS LINK to thank Governor Ducey and your legislators for supporting school choice!
 
SB 1437:  Right to Earn a Living — This reform allows would-be entrepreneurs and job-creators to challenge professional licensing regulations designed to stifle competition and do nothing to protect public health and safety.
 
SB 1152:  Stopping Hidden Tax Hikes — This reform protects families and businesses by requiring local governments to put sales tax increases on the ballot in November of even-numbered years, rather than hiding those measures in low-turnout elections.
 
As it has done in past years, AFP-Arizona also grades legislators and the governor on missed opportunities, important reform bills that are prevented from reaching floor votes in the House or Senate. 
 
Among this year’s missed opportunities was the Senate’s failure to bring the Truth in Spending budget transparency reform to a floor vote, and the House’s failure to bring the Education Spending Transparency Act to a floor vote.
 
The highest-scoring legislator on AFP-Arizona’s 2017 Scorecard was Rep. Travis Grantham of Gilbert, with 94 percent, which earned him the designation of “Hero of the Taxpayer.”  The lowest-scoring legislator on the 2017 Scorecard was Sen. Martin Quezada, with 17 percent, which earned him the designation of “Champion of Big Government.”
 
For Liberty & Prosperity, 
 
Tom
 
Tom Jenney
Senior Legislative Advisor
Americans for Prosperity-Arizona
 
PS: To view scorecards from previous years, click HERE.

Border Adjustment Tax Could Derail Tax Reform

Americans for Prosperity - Arizona

By: Tom Jenney – Americans for Prosperity, Arizona

One of the most enduring symbols of Arizona is the Grand Canyon.  In fact, many people have nicknamed us the Grand Canyon State.  This most famous of the national parks also illustrates the stakes for Arizonans in the debate that is currently being waged in Washington, D.C. over tax reform.

Let there be no mistake: the so-called Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) would blow a Grand Canyon-sized hole in our economy and the budgets of working families.

In Arizona, the retail industry is a significant source of jobs.  There are more than 64,000 retail businesses that support 828,000 jobs, contributing $53 billion to our economy every year.  If you lined up the workers who are employed because of retail in Arizona shoulder to shoulder, they would span just about the entire length of the Grand Canyon.  That’s a lot of jobs and many of them could be on the chopping block if Speaker Paul Ryan, and U.S. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady move forward with the BAT.

The BAT is a national sales tax that would raise $1 trillion in new revenue over the next ten years by taxing imports.  Small businesses, particularly retailers would be discriminated against, while big multinational corporations that ship products overseas, would have their exports exempted from federal taxes.  This is a classic example of Washington picking winners and losers among industries, but in this case, it would be middle-income working families who get the shortest end of the stick and pay the ultimate price.

The BAT would drive up the cost of everyday necessities, such as gasoline, groceries, food and clothing, including prescription medicines.  According to the National Retail Federation, the average Arizona family could end up paying more than $1,700 per year in higher prices.  This is a lot of money that struggling, working families, who have seen their wages stagnate in recent years, simply can’t afford to pay.

Fortunately, the BAT is running into a buzz saw of political opposition.  Conservative organizations such as the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity have blasted the BAT as being anti-consumer and anti-free market.  Senator Jeff Flake should take note of this opposition and publicly oppose it.  Moreover, Congressman David Schweikert sits on the Ways and Means Committee and should work to keep this tax increase on Arizona families from ever getting out of his committee.

Arizona’s elected leaders could do the vital retail businesses in our state and middle-class families a great service by formally announcing their opposition and driving a nail in the coffin of BAT.  Tax reform is too important to the health of the economy and the pocketbooks of working households for it to be derailed by an exotic, anti-consumer, anti-small business tax.  The BAT is simply bad policy, and it deserves to die an early death, so conservative, free market tax reform can get back on the right track.

It is time to save tax reform, which is badly needed for families and businesses alike in Arizona, by saying no to and killing the BAT.  That is the first step to fairly and equitably lowering the rates for everyone and allow the free market to work.  Conservatives were not elected to Congress to put their thumb on the scale and pick winners and losers, and that is exactly what a trillion-dollar tax increase on Arizona families does in exchange for a permanent tax holiday for multinational companies, many of which already exploit loopholes and receive special deals from lobbyists in Washington.  Senator Flake and Congressman Schweikert, voters sent you to the nation’s capital to fight for their interests and are watching who you stand up for.

Tom Jenney is the State Director of the Arizona Chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

Arizona AFP: LAST CALL: RSVP for Friday’s Celebration!

We are excited to celebrate YOU this Friday.

Arizona AFP

This is the last call to attend our Liberty Celebration, this Friday, December 9, to celebrate your legislative and policy victories for 2016. We would love for you to join us.

RSVP as soon as possible for our Liberty Celebration as seats are limited!

Where:  Christ Church Lutheran, Arizona Room
3901 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018

When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Why: Americans for Prosperity Arizona will be honoring our top activists-America’s freedom fighters and our friends! We will also honor legislators and local government officials with the designation of Friend of the Taxpayer of higher on our annual scorecards (Legislative Scorecard and Local Government Scorecard).

Dinner and drinks will be provided.

AFP across the United States contacted 30 million Americans at the phone and the door – that’s 10% of the entire country! All told, AFP advocated against Senate candidates in eight states. All but one of those candidates were defeated. That’s something to celebrate! We will giving each of our top winners a prized jackalope.*

Please RSVP and come celebrate YOUR efforts for promoting liberty and prosperity for all Arizonans!

For Liberty & Prosperity,

Tom Jenney
Arizona Director
Americans for Prosperity Arizona

*Think that jackalopes do not exist? Well, that’s how a lot of taxpayers feel when we tell them that there are pro-taxpayer elected officials and local activists. But they really do exist! And we plan to honor them on Friday, December 9th. Please join us!

Dial “D” for Disappointing

Jeff Dial D

Dear Arizona Taxpayer:

You may not know Arizona state Senator Jeff Dial.  But his disappointing record on fiscal policy issues affects you and your family. CONTACT DIAL NOW to TAKE ACTION.  Or join AFP-Arizona’s field teams (info below) as we go door-to-door in Dial’s district, letting taxpayers in his district know about his record:

— Senator Dial voted against Governor Doug Ducey’s fiscally conservative balanced budget.  His failure to support the budget almost caused the state to spend millions of dollars we can’t afford.

— Senator Dial single-handedly blocked passage of the Truth in Spending budget transparency bill, by not even allowing the bill to be heard in his committee.

— Senator Dial scored 47 percent on AFP-Arizona’s 2016 Legislative Scorecard, earning him the designation of “Friend of Big Government.”

— Senator Dial’s cumulative score on the Legislative Scorecard is 51 percent, earning him the designation of “Needs Improvement.”

The 2016 legislative session that begins in January will give Senator Dial another chance to get it right and vote for fiscally conservative policies.   Tell Senator Dial to stop listening to the teacher unions and the Big Spenders and start listening to the hard-working taxpayers in his district.

Use THIS LINK to TAKE ACTION and contact Senator Dial.

To join our field teams for door canvassing action in Dial’s district (Ahwatukee/Tempe/West Chandler), contact Leslie White atlwhite@afphq.org

For Liberty & Prosperity,

Tom Jenney
Arizona Director
Americans for Prosperity
tjenney@afphq.org

Paid for by Americans for Prosperity, the nation’s largest free-market grassroots organization.  To get on our email list and help us encourage Senator Dial do the right thing, contact us at infoAZ@afphq.org or (602) 478-0146.

Americans for Prosperity – Arizona: Get Organized. Make an Impact.

AFPGLA-1

There is still time to join Americans for Prosperity Foundation for our six-week grassroots activist certification course beginning November 3rd and 4th. We’ll empower attendees with the leadership skills and knowledge to be effective grassroots leaders. Government is big: learn how to make it listen to you. Every class is free of charge and includes dinner.

Sign up HERE for our Tucson class beginning Tuesday, November 3rd.

Sign up HERE for our Phoenix class beginning Wednesday, November 4th.

Arizonans from across the state are learning how to organize and mobilize. Will you join them?

Learn MORE, watch our video.

AFPGLA-2

Who is responsible for raising your property taxes?

AFP

Dear Arizona Taxpayer:

Maricopa County Treasurer Hos Hoskins made headlines with the policy letter he included with recent property tax bills for Maricopa County residents.  (Note for those living outside of the “Great State of Maricopa”: this does apply to you, as well.)   Hoskins has re-opened an interesting policy debate about the extent to which property tax burdens have been shifted from business property taxpayers to residential property taxpayers (or vice-versa, depending on your point of view).  We have included some links below about that debate.

Setting aside the debate about the burden shift, Hoskins made a claim that is very counterproductive to the efforts of property taxpayers to fight for tax relief.   Multiple times in his letter, Hoskins made the following claim: “Voicing your opinion to anyone other than your legislators will change nothing.”

That claim is highly misleading.

Consider just a few examples from your property tax bill.  If you look closely, you will see several line-item levy amounts from several different local government taxing authorities: your K-12 school districts, your community college district, your city government, your county government, and multiple special taxing districts.  Each of those taxing districts have authority, completely independent of the state Legislature, to raise (or more rarely, lower) your property tax levy.

(Note: Always focus on the levy, which is the actual number of dollars you must pay, rather than the rate.  If local officials brag to you that they have lowered property tax rates, hold onto your wallet and ask them what is going to happen to your actual levy.)

Many Arizona school districts and municipalities have put budget override and bond measures on your November 3 ballot.  If passed by voters, those measures will increase your property tax bill.  Those measures were not placed on your ballot by the Arizona Legislature.  They are on your ballot, and driving up your tax bill, at the sole discretion of local elected officials.  Your school district board members are under no legal (or in our opinion, moral) obligation to try to push for an override.

For example, Phoenix Union school board members could have decided that spending $9,627 per student  (in current expenditures, not counting capital and other costs) is enough.  Even without the override, Phoenix Union will spend more than $9,000 per student – enough money to put two teachers in every classroom of 25 students and pay each of those teachers $75,000 per year.   Instead of trying to raise taxes via an override, the Phoenix Union board members could cut excess administration and other waste.  See our Phoenix Union flyer HERE, and contact us at bwitbeck@afphq.org if you want us to send you a flyer for your own school district.

We as citizens and taxpayers must hold the local officials in our cities, counties and school districts accountable for the dollars they choose to spend.  See AFP’s Local Government Scorecard to learn more about holding your local officials accountable.

Back to the interesting debate on the business-residential property tax levy shift…  For a defense of the shift and Proposition 117 (which passed in 2012), go here for the response of the Arizona Tax Research Association to the Hoskins letter.  Or go here for Senator Debbie Lesko’s response.

Boaz Witbeck
Arizona Policy Analyst
Americans for Prosperity

That wailing and moaning you’re about to hear

 

AFP

Dear Arizona Taxpayer:

The wailing and moaning you’re about to hear on your television and see in your newspaper is the sound of Arizona’s spending lobbies after they read the executive budget released today by Arizona’s new Governor, Doug Ducey.

TAKE ACTION TO SUPPORT GOV. DUCEY’S BUDGET

Supporters of Big Government will HATE this budget:

●  The school district bureaucrats who steal money from the students and teachers in our classrooms will loathe the fact that Gov. Ducey’s budget reduces administrative bureaucracy by $113 million (with no cuts to actual classroom spending).

●  The corporate crony capitalists will wail about the $100 million slush fund Gov. Ducey wants to take away from the Arizona Commerce Authority.

●  The educrats who waste taxpayer money and student tuition dollars at our community colleges and universities will scream about the $84 million in reductions to their budgets.

They and their hundreds of lobbyists are going to fight hard to try to stop these cuts.  We need Arizona’s taxpayers, producers and consumers to STAND UP NOW and support Gov. Ducey’s budget reforms.

Ducey’s budget has more than $660 million in spending reductions for the fiscal year starting July 1 ($360 million is permanent and $304 million is temporary).  The permanent reductions will increase to nearly $450 million in the following fiscal year, when – for the first time since the go-go days of the real estate boom – the state budget will actually be structurally balanced.  WITH NO TAX INCREASES.

For real.

We’re not kidding.

We have always had a core of real fiscal conservatives at the Arizona Legislature who believed in balanced budgets and wanted to protect Arizona’s taxpayers, producers and consumers.  But for the first time in recent memory, an Arizona governor is actually taking the leadership role of holding the line against the growth of Big Government.

The executive budgets of Governors Napolitano and Brewer had absurdly high revenue predictions and dangerously high spending proposals that had to be cut down by the real leaders in the Legislature.  But it’s a new day in Arizona!  (For you budget wonks out there, Gov. Ducey’s $9.1 billion budget is well under the prudent budget limit of population-plus-inflation.)

Thank you for TAKING ACTION TODAY to fight Big Government in Arizona!

Also, if you want to send a personal thank-you note to Governor Ducey, you can find his contact page HERE.

For Liberty & Prosperity, Tom

Tom Jenney
Arizona State Director
Americans for Prosperity

Tom Jenney: Be sure to look at your early ballot

AFP Arizona

Dear Arizona Taxpayer,

With mail-in ballots sitting on kitchen tables across the state, AFP-Arizona wants to make sure that citizens are informed on some of the ballot propositions that will be decided between now and November 4.  
 
IMPORTANT:  It is best to get your ballot in the mail by Thursday, October 30.  You can also drop it off at any polling place in your county of residence between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm on Tuesday, November 4
 
Below are quick summaries of AFP-Arizona’s positions on several ballot propositions.  You can read more in-depth analysis at AFP-Arizona’s website.
  • YES on Arizona Proposition 122: Rejection of Unconstitutional Federal Actions  —  Prop 122 will provide Arizonans with a way to protect themselves from overreaching and harmful federal policies.  AFP-Arizona strongly endorses Prop 122.  
  • YES on Arizona Proposition 303: Use of Investigational Drugs, Biomedical Products and Devices — Prop 303 would allow terminally ill patients in Arizona to procure experimental drugs that have not completed the full FDA trial process (but have been deemed safe by FDA).  AFP-Arizona strongly encourages citizens to vote YES on Prop 303 to protect the health and safety of terminally ill patients and strike a blow for the freedom of individuals to make their own health care decisions.
  • NO on Maricopa County Proposition 480 – Prop 480 would spend $935 million to fund new and updated facilities for the Maricopa Integrated Health Systems.  If passed, the proposition would result in a significant property tax increase, especially on small businesses.  A typical small business with $1 million in assessed valuation will end up paying $7,800 for this bond measure.  Maricopa County taxpayers already greatly subsidize health care for the less fortunate, and there are already sufficient health care options, including vast private hospital systems, available to Maricopa County residents.  Prop 480 has little accountability for how the money is used, and it would subsidize government health facilities in unfair competition with private health care enterprises.
  • NO on Pima County Proposition 415 — Prop 415 would issue $22 million in bonds for the expansion and renovation of the Pima Animal Care Facility.  Pima County taxpayers are already being subjected to a property tax levy increase of $45 million, or approximately $50 on a typical house, and the Animal Care Center has already received a $1 million increase in its operating budget for expanded shelter operations, medical treatment, and spay/neuter programs.
  • YES on City of Phoenix Proposition 487 – Prop 487 would solve the City’s nearly $1.5 billion unfunded pension liability problem by moving new employees to a plan similar to the 401k plans that are common in the private sector.   Prop 487 would fix the City’s scandalous $190 million pension spiking problem by limiting the excess pension benefits given to current employees.
 
LEARN MORE!   Please go to www.aztaxpayers.org , print out the PDF version of our analysis, and give copies to your friends, neighbors and co-workers.  
 
Thank you for taking action
 
For Liberty & Prosperity, Tom
 
Tom Jenney
Arizona Director
Americans for Prosperity 

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Releases 2014 Local Government Scorecard

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AFPF-Arizona’s Local Government Scorecard for the 2014 fiscal year (its 7th annual local scorecard) covers 106 Arizona cities, counties and special-purpose taxing districts, and 670 local officials.  The Scorecard grades local officials on overall budgets, property tax levies and sales tax changes, and includes yearly scores for current officials going back to the 2008 fiscal year, as well as cumulative averages.  AFPF-Arizona’s Local Government Scorecard for the 2013 fiscal year comes out at a time when many local governments in Arizona are finalizing tax and budget plans for the 2014 fiscal year.

For the Local Government Scorecard with cumulative scores for FYs 2008-2013, click HERE.

For FY 2014 sub-scores on budgets, property tax levies and sales tax changes, click HERE.

(For local officials who left office after 2012, see our FY 2013 Scorecard, which has cumulative scores going back to FY 2008.)

Later this year, AFPF-Arizona will present its 2014 John W. Dawson Local Hero Award to the Arizona local official who has made the greatest impact in defending taxpayers.

AFPF-Arizona encourages local officials to make sure that budgets and tax levies do not grow faster than the private economy on which they depend.  AFPF-Arizona’s slow-growth year scoring rubric for the 2014 fiscal year allowed local governments to raise their total approved budgets and their total property tax levies by five percent without earning negative points.  Given the continued sluggishness of the economy, and given the difficulties faced by families and businesses in the private sector, AFPF-Arizona believes the Scorecard’s allowances were generous.

AFPF-Arizona relies on the final approved budgets and levies reported in Schedules A and B —the state-required documents that are included as appendices in most local government budgets.   Unfortunately, in 2013, a dozen municipalities failed to post those schedules online, despite the fact that they are required to do so under A.R.S. 42-17103, and despite an offer by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns to post the documents on its website.  AFPF-Arizona will update past and present scorecards to incorporate missing data, if city officials will send us links to Schedules A and B and to the council minutes for the meetings in which those budgets and levies received final approval.

AFPF-Arizona regrets that its Local Government Scorecard (which as far as we know is the only one of its kind in the country) can only grade changes to aggregate budgets, and cannot go into line-item detail within budgets.  Taxpayers should be advised that a high score for a local government body does not entail AFPF-Arizona’s endorsement of every line item in that government’s budget for the fiscal year.  Even in the best-run local governments (as measured by annual changes to overall budgets), vigilant taxpayers are still likely to find boondoggles and wasteful programs that should be reduced or eliminated.

For the full spreadsheet, which includes links to budget documents and meeting minutes, as well as email contacts for local officials, email AFPF-Arizona at tjenney@afphq.org.

AFPF-Arizona thanks research associate Caleb Rhodes for his help in completing this year’s Scorecard.